The Iron Jackal

By Chris Wooding

Published by Gollancz

RRP £12.99 in Paperback (£6.99 on Kindle)

Things are finally looking up for Captain Frey and his crew. The Ketty Jay has had an overhaul; they’ve had their first taste of fortune and fame. And for once no one is trying to kill them. This includes Trinica Dracken, Frey’s ex-fiancée and long time nemesis; in fact she’s offered them a job. But the job is in Samarla – the bitter enemies of Vardia – and involves a theft from a train. Join the crew as they become involved in mayhem and mischief, roof-top chases, death-defying races, Daemons, psychopaths, golems and a cranky cat.

The first time was to clear his name, the second was for money. This time it’s a race against the clock for the ultimate prize; Frey’s own life.

For anyone who is not familiar with Captain Darian Frey here’s how’s best to sum him up. He’s part Han Solo, part Mal Reynolds, he has a smattering of Indiana Jones and a sizable dollop of James T Kirk. Overall he’s a chancer, always on the look-out for the next Joe who he can fleece, or rob blind. At least he was, before what happened at the end of Black Lung Captain.

Now Capt. Frey is a changed man, his crew has changed along with him. No more are they a group of misfits who happen to end up on the shame ship, and just stick together because there’s no-where else for them to go. Now they are a group of misfits who behave like a proper crew, they have a bond, a bond forged in the skies beyond the Wrack. They’d faced death together – numerous times – and come out the other side.

In this third outing for the crew of the Ketty Jay things are a little different. They are on their uppers, they have money in their pockets, and the ship now runs like a dream due to an overhaul – paid for by Trinica Dracken – and even Slag the cat seems to have come to terms with Harkins and Jez. Life was good, things were looking up; trust Capt. Frey to screw it all up.

That’s not entirely true, due to the crew working together for a change they successfully carry out a dangerous mission. But despite instructions from Dracken, Frey has to open the box and take a look at what they’d stolen. That simple act sends the crew on a race against time to save their Captains life, and uncover deeply guarded secrets that could lead to war.

This is a tighter book than the first two. Towards the end of Black Lung Captain it was becoming too easy to predict the various ways in which Frey and his crew were going to get shafted; usually by Dracken. But this time round Wooding has moved up a notch, you think you know how things are going to turn out, then BAM things change and you’re left floundering. It’s a good feeling because in doing this Wooding has breathed new life into the characters and setting. The crew are fleshed out, two more than the rest, they become more rounded, more three dimensional.

Also this time out there is more in the way of world-building. You get several in-depth history lessons, the main continent gets a name (least think this is new can’t remember it before) and you get the feeling Wooding is sowing the seeds for future stories, seeds that may take a few books to take root and sprout.

All in all this is a fast paced action adventure with little let up in the pace from start to finish, the humour is dark and plentiful, there is also several horror tinged incidents.